Today we begin a new message series entitled “Faith Heroes.” We’re going to look at stories from the Bible of regular people whom God used in extraordinary ways. We’ll learn the different ways that God spoke to them and how they responded. We’ll be encouraged by how God helped them through the trials and difficulties they faced in fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for their lives. Now, none of these faith heroes that we’ll be looking at were perfect, they were far from it. Yet, they believed and followed God and were able to achieve God’s purpose.
In this series, we won’t be looking at the stories of those who missed God’s purpose. Although there are many such stories in the Bible, we’ll leave those for another time. The point is that fulfilling God’s purpose and plan in your life is not automatic. You must cooperate with God and persevere through difficulties in order to obtain the victory.
Today’s message and story is called “God’s Dreamer.” Many people lack purpose and direction in their lives. They are not sure if their lives are heading in the right direction or not. This lack of purpose leads to frustration and lack of fulfillment. Trying one thing after another to bring fulfillment grows old. But, today, we’re going to see that there is a way to find your purpose in life. Even though you may be unsure of your purpose, God does have a unique plan for your life. His plan is the best plan you could possibly follow and was created just for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God has a plan for the rest of your life no matter what your age. God has a plan for the rest of your life, even though you know you’ve not been following it up to today. Not only does God have a plan for the rest of your life, He wants to reveal it to you.
Acts 2:17 (ESV) “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
The three activities of the Holy Spirit in this verse are all examples of God revealing His plan to people. Prophesy is God speaking through a person revealing as aspect of His plan. Visions and dreams are God communicating His purposes to people in a variety of ways. So, today’s story is going to answer the question “Is it possible to discover God’s unique purpose for your life and live it out?” Let’s see how God prepares and plants a person in the right place, time and family for His purposes.
Genesis 37:2a (ESV) Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives.
We meet the main character in our story, Joseph, at the age of 17. He is one of 12 brothers in the family. He worked in the fields, herding his father’s flocks. God’s preparation for each one of us begins with …
Parents don’t determine who their children are and children don’t choose their parents. Families are put together by God and so it was with Joseph’s family. We soon find out that Joseph’s family was not perfect, indeed, far from perfect. Joseph had been herding flocks with his brothers and …
Genesis 37:2b-4 (ESV) And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
The family problems began with Joseph telling his father something bad his brothers were doing. As we’ll soon find out, Joseph’s brothers were not godly men at this point, so Joseph may have had good reason to tell his father. The next family issue was that Israel, the father, had chosen Joseph as his favorite. Why? Because Joseph was born to the wife that Israel loved, Rachel. Of course, his brothers did not like that, so they hated Joseph.
All together a nice loving family, right? Not really. Yet, it was the family that God had placed Joseph in and would one day be used greatly in fulfilling God’s purposes together. But that’s part of another story. God’s preparation begins with your family and continues with …
Genesis 37:5 (ESV) Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.
Joseph’s first dream was of all his brother’s sheaves of wheat bowing down to his sheaf as they were harvesting together. Joseph was already his father’s favorite and now he was dreaming of all his older brothers bowing down to him. It was not going well in his family life. Then Joseph had a second dream. In this dream the sun, moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him, obviously representing his parents and his brothers.
Genesis 37:10 (ESV) But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”
Now, Joseph’s father was upset with his dreams. The text gives some indication that Joseph may have been presenting his dreams pridefully to his family, which undoubtedly made the tension greater. Yet with those dreams, God was preparing Joseph for his future purpose, which was still a long way off. God always prepares us for His purposes.
Oftentimes, the dreams that God reveals to us have to do with quite a distant future, but we have the tendency to think they are dealing with the immediate. Many years ago, I was working as a Ph.D. research chemist at Monsanto. My father had been a pastor, but I never wanted to be one, I loved doing chemical research. One day, out of the blue, God visited me. It wasn’t a literal vision or dream, but God spoke directly to me and told me that He as calling me into full-time ministry. This was not what I wanted to do, but I was sure God had spoken to me. So, I assumed it was something that I needed to pursue immediately. I spoke to my pastor at the time and they came up with a type of mission’s position for me in England. I was excited, I thought this was God’s plan and I sold the house I owned and began preparations. However, I had just begun dating Carol and the plans just didn’t seem to be fitting together. After praying and seeking further counsel, I realized that my relationship with Carol was my top priority and did not pursue the England position. It was not till many years later, after seminary preparation and starting a family that God opened the right doors for ministry right here in St Louis where all my relationships were.
Be careful with the dreams that God gives you and always seek godly counsel.
Genesis 37:13 (ESV) And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.”
Joseph’s father sent him to check on his brothers. Probably not a good thing to do, based on the past animosity. We’re going to see that when God gives you a dream of His plan, there will always be attacks on the dream. Why? Because Satan does not want to see God’s dream for your life fulfilled. So, there may well be …
Genesis 37:18 (ESV) They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.
Eleven brothers agreeing together to kill their youngest. Not exactly a godly family. Satan knew that if Joseph was killed, he would never fulfill God’s purpose. Yet, there was one brother who did not want to kill his brother.
Genesis 37:22 (ESV) And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.
So, Reuben came up with a plan to save Joseph and bring him back to his father. Again, we see God at work through one of the brothers in saving Joseph’s life and keeping the dream alive. If taking the life of a follower of God doesn’t work, then Satan will next bring to bear …
Genesis 37:26-27 (ESV) Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
Judah now had second thoughts about killing Joseph. The brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave to a caravan of slave traders. What was the brother’s motive? They wanted to get rid of Joseph and his dreams of them bowing down to them. So, they and I believe Satan sought to destroy the relationship of Joseph with his parents and his brothers. There was always be attacks of the dreams and plans that God has for your life.
The attacks of Satan on God’s plans or dreams for your life come in many different forms. Sometimes, Satan impersonates God and the dream you think is from God is from Satan. This usually works when you want something so badly, that you convince yourself that God is speaking to you when He isn’t. How can you tell the difference? With God’s Word and godly counsel. Sometimes, there are direct attacks by Satan, making things difficult. At other times, Satan seeks to distract us by getting our priorities in life wrong. Yet other attacks have to do with sowing doubt in our minds about God’s plans. Or causing us to get discouraged with the attacks and give up on the plan. All of God’s plans are only completed fulfilled in relationship with other believers. When you pray and seek God together, He will help you survive the attacks.
Now, Joseph’s brothers certainly were not acting in a godly manner toward Joseph, they had committed serious sin against him.
Even though God’s plan would ultimately be fulfilled, there were serious consequences as a result of his brother’s sin in selling him into slavery. The next sin resulted in the …
Genesis 37:31-32 (ESV) Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.”
One sin usually leads to another. So, to explain the disappearance of Joseph, who had gone to visit his brothers, they had to lie. The brothers brought Joseph’s unique many-colored robe back to his father stained with blood. Israel, the father, drew the conclusion that a wild animal had killed Joseph and that he was dead. Not only had the brothers deceived their father, they had subjected him to extreme emotional distress and grief over the supposed death of his son. Yet, we’ll see that …
Genesis 37:35-36 (ESV) All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
Joseph’s father was so distraught that he did not want to be comforted, he wanted to die in mourning. Of course, the brothers could do nothing to comfort him, because the truth would expose their guilt. But the chapter ends in verse 36 with the beginning of the next chapter in Josephs’ life and God’s dream for him. He was told to an officer of Pharaoh, the leader of all of Egypt. Despite vicious attacks on Joseph and his family relationships, God’s plan was continuing. Ultimately, the plan would involve the reunion of the entire family and reconciliation. Yet the consequences of the brother’s sin brought deep pain.
We must be careful to not let Satan use conflict to attack God’s dreams in our lives or the lives of others. Conflict in relationships is one of Satan’s prime attack vectors. Whether that conflict is between spouses, parents and children or between fellow believers. Let God use you to be a peacemaker in conflict. Trust that as you follow God, He will cause His dreams for your life and the people in your family to be fulfilled.
Today, we’ve looked at the story of God’s dreamer, Joseph. I’d encourage you to read the entire chapter Genesis 37 this week. God has prepared each one of us for His dream by putting us in the family of his choosing. Be grateful for your parents and siblings, they were chosen by God just for you. If you don’t believe that you know God’s dream for the rest of your life, ask Him, seek Him and He will reveal it to you. Know that whenever you’re seeking to follow God’s dream for your life, you will be attacked. The bigger the dream, the bigger the attacks. Attacks don’t mean you are doing something wrong, they mean you are doing something right. There will be attacks on you personally and upon your relationships. Seek to be a peacemaker and not a cause of conflict. Finally, believe that despite opposition, if you keep on following God’s dream, it will ultimately be fulfilled. Yes, you can know God’s unique purpose for your life and joyfully life it out.